Tim Ballard Said He Buried Me

I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.

Tim Ballard Said He Buried Me
Tim Ballard profiled by CBS in 2014, the same year I worked with him

I learned something really disturbing Tuesday night. 

I tried to write about it on Wednesday, in a quiet corner of a library. But instead, I just kind of kept almost fainting? A new thing! I understood it was some kind of new panic attack. But I also didn’t really know what to do about it. So I made some jokes online. 

That’s what you do, right? When you are so upset your body is trying to shut down? The jokes were things like this, 

“Panic! At the library!” And, “Fight or flight or FAINT!” 

A friend, who is also a psychologist, responded to that last one. He said that the fainting made sense. I guess when our bodies perceive a threat to our survival, the response mechanism is actually fight or flight or freeze. This friend sent me a video on TIP skills, actions that de-escalate intense distress by changing your body chemistry. 

He recommended TIP the temperature. That’s basically getting very cold water on your face, through splashes or quick submersion. I sat outside the library with a cup of ice water and splashed my face. It worked long enough for me to safely drive home.

I went back to the library Wednesday. But every time I tried to write about this, the same thing happened. And I was like, “Body! Run mad as often as you choose; but do not faint!”  But shortly afterward, I actually fainted. (I was in a chair, so all in all, not too bad.)

I stayed home yesterday. And today.  I am writing in a place I feel safe. On my kitchen floor, in  the corner where the cabinets and our dishwasher meet. Riley loaded and started the dishwasher a bit ago. So there’s a nice, warm kind of rhythm at my back. 

I have to get some version of this out today. Mostly because I can’t bear to face it tomorrow. My heart is racing. But I don’t feel faint. 

So let’s begin.

On Tuesday, five women filed a lawsuit against Tim Ballard,

Tim Ballard, the founder and former head of the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad whose heavily fictionalized exploits were the subject of this summer’s surprise box-office hit Sound of Freedom, has been sued in Utah’s Third District Court by five women accusing him of sexual misconduct. The Utah news outlet KSL was the first to report the filing. An accompanying press release issued by their attorney, Suzette Rasmussen, reports that additional suits are likely to be filed by more women in the coming month.
“The tragic irony is not lost on these five women,” Rasmussen wrote in the press release. “Tim Ballard literally trafficked them for his own sexual and egotistical gratification.”….the women, who all live in Utah, and who filed the suit using initials to protect their privacy, accuse Ballard in detail of “coerced sexual contact.”
The suit alleges that Ballard and/or the co-defendants have committed sexual assault and battery, conspiracy, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and “outrage,” and accuses OUR of failing in its fiduciary duties, asking for a trial by jury and damages in an amount to be proven at trial. The central allegations have to do with the so-called “couples ruse,” which is described in the suit as “a tool for sexual grooming.” - Vice News

I read the lawsuit that night. On the fourth page of the first victim statement, the woman says Ballard was obsessed with making sure she would not betray him. He wanted her to know that people who betrayed him suffer consequences. He,

mentioned a journalist who wrote a negative article about him who was just out to get him and the cause, but no one believed her and he “buried her.”

Hi. It’s me. I’m the journalist.

There’s no way for me to capture what this means, what this proves or what this has done to me in a single post. It would require a book’s worth of writing - either here or …. I don’t know….in a book. The most depressing, predictable book ever. With a title like,

“The Time Power-obssessed Men Did What Power-obsessed Men Often Do, To Many People Including Me.”

But for now, I feel like I just need to make a record of Tim Ballard’s power, and the power of the people who enabled him. The reason he wanted to bury me. The way I recognize the way the women were groomed. And the fact that the women could have been protected from Ballard and O.U.R. if anyone with power in the LDS Church, Utah Attorney general’s office or legacy media had taken me seriously.

This is a story about power. That’s what abuse is, you know. An exercise of power. So let’s start there. 

Ballard was at the height of his power in 2021. 

When I met Ballard in 2014, he was already pushing a version of the “save the children”  narrative that would become incredibly popular during the Trump years. Ballard claimed that there were large networks of people invested in protecting pedophiles and child sex trafficking. He said the US government was complacent about child sex trafficking, if not complicit. He, and the people around him, claimed that he was called by God to save the children. 

By 2021, Ballard’s narrative had fused with the Qanon conspiracy theory. He hinted darkly about the machinations of governments and powerful people while stumping for Trump’s wall. Ballard formed connections with the Trump White House, working for Ivanka Trump and serving on President Trump’s anti-human trafficking advisory board. 

He became deeply associated with people in state government too, including a long, often publicly expressed bestie kind of friendship with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. It makes sense that Ballard sought out and maintained intimate connections with people inthe government.  By 2021, Ballard believed he was called by God to save the country. 

images from the lawsuit

Ballard is a Mormon Nationalist. Mormon Nationalists don’t just believe this country was founded to be a vessel for Mormonism. Their beliefs are much more fundamental. They believe the continent was formed for Mormonism too. The Appalachian Mountains rise, the Mississippi flows, and the Great Plains extend so that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can exist. 

Ballard’s Mormon Nationalist books were published by the LDS Church’s for-profit publishing company, Deseret Book. For many members of the LDS Church, a book published by Deseret Book has a kind of defacto stamp of approval by Church leadership. In 2009, President Eyring, currently in the First Presidency of the Church, commended Deseret Book for  “offering the truth of the word of God to all who would receive it.” 

OUR was featured in LDS Church news. (Since the allegations against Ballard have become more public, the LDS Church has been scrubbing Ballard’s presence in their online archives.) Ballard was invited to speak in LDS congregations. He went on a Deseret Book-sponsored national speaking tour with other Deseret Book authors.  

And in 2019 he was spoken of by LDS Apostle M. Russell Ballard (no relation, apparently) as a dear friend who was able to teach him many things. Tim Ballard was made known as a man who could teach an apostle of God.  

He didn’t just have influence with Latter-day Saints. He was a cult personality for Qanon conspiracy theorists, MLM executives and hedge fund guys with too much capital and too few qualms. You know, the type of people who think saving the world hinges on their ability to profit off of salvation. 

In 2021, Ballard was repped by WME, one of the largest talent agencies in the world. The agency that represents Olivia Rodrigo, Meghan Markle, Brene Brown, Adele, Bob Odinkirk, and Selena Gomez! The agency with a book department that includes titles by Yaa Gyasi, Curtis Sittenfeld, Amor Towles and Austin Channing Brown! 

He had a tv show under development, with an Emmy award winning producer. And the first trailer for Sound of Freedom, the movie he’d help make about himself, had just debuted. And sure, it took a little while to hit theaters. But when the movie was finally released last July, it became one of the biggest movies of the summer.The film version of Tim Ballard’s (purported) origin story has made over 217 million dollars since its debut. 

By 2021, OUR and Ballard had a lot of money. And, as one Mormon villain famously said, you can buy anything in this world with money. (iykyk)

The lawsuit states that,

OUR reported to the IRS $6.9 million in revenue in 2016, $22.3 million in 2019, $45 million in 2020, §52.930 million in 2021 and $56.73 million in 2022. 

In the IRS 990 form, it is reported that Tim Ballard received a salary of $525,958 in 2022, yet former employes claim that Ballard eamed over $14,000,000 through his for-profit companies (some of which was funneled from the non-profit entity). 

Two things can be true. Tim Ballard can be a liar. And he could have been telling the truth about burying people who betrayed him. 

He put my life in danger. And then he used me to endanger other women.

And do you know why this matters? 

It’s not just because this man may have hurt me more than I understood. I mean, yeah, I’d love to know what he said about me to people who could decide whether I get to make a living as a writer, speaker and storyteller! Some opportunities disappeared around the time he said he’d buried me. I always blamed myself. Now I wonder. Just a little. 

This matters because Ballard weaponized what he did to me, or claimed to do, in order to hurt other women. He coerced at least one victim by citing what he did to me. 

Look what I did to this journalist. I buried her. I could do that to you too. 

She believed him. And did not come forward to tell people about his abuse because she did not want to be buried too. He put my life in danger. And then he used me to endanger other women. I am furious. 

Why did Tim Ballard want to bury me?

In 2014, Tim Ballard invited me to go on an anti-trafficking raid with his organization, Operation Underground Railroad. He told me was called by God to save children, and I believed him. I went on the raid. This 2014 piece for CBS shows I wasn’t the only one who believed him. 

Still. The shame that overtakes me every time I think about that decision is difficult to express. I think that feeling is part of the penance I pay for that decision. Trying to warn people about Ballard, OUR and the movement they represent is also part of my penance.  

Here is the piece I wrote for Slate. 

Here I am on the Vice podcast about OUR

Here is a piece I wrote last summer : Sound of Freedom is part of an augmented reality project

Here I am on Today, Explained talking about OUR and Ballard

I’ve written and spoken extensively about how I grew first wary of, and then horrified by, both Ballard and OUR. I felt compelled to speak up as I watched Ballard and OUR grow in power and prominence. 

I was, rightly, afraid of Tim Ballard, OUR and the state and religious powers affiliated with them. I understood the influence of the law firm that represented OUR. It was the same law firm that represented the LDS Church.  Yes, the same law firm that ran the horrifying LDS Church abuse “help line” represented the anti-child sex trafficking group. And yes, that does raise some interesting questions! For another time!

I knew if I was going to publish a piece about OUR, a newsletter or blog wouldn’t do. I needed to publish with an actual publisher with an actual legal team. I started pitching in early 2020. But no one was interested in my story. I was rejected, or simply not replied to, over and over and over again. 

Slate took me up on the pitch in August of 2020. I will always be grateful to the folks over there. 

I’ve included some screenshots of my side of correspondence with the editor. Sensitive information has been redacted.

I think it should be noted here that a wonderful LDS man helped me get in contact with the right people at Slate. Without his help, I don’t know if I would have gotten through. So LDS men! There are some really great ones! Let this record show! 

My piece was published in May 11, 2021. In it, I share my experience with OUR on what they called an anti-sex trafficking raid. I argue that Ballard endangers people, especially women and children, for his own glory. And I argue that OUR is more interested in Ballard’s white savior narrative than actually stopping human trafficking. 

Tim Ballard and OUR knew the piece was being published by April 16, 2021. That is when my editor - who was amazing - told me he was reaching out to both for comment. My editor checked in before contacting Ballard and OUR because his questions made my identity apparent. This was terrifying. But not as terrifying as not publishing the piece. I told him to go ahead. 

(Also, ahem. I donated the amount I would have been paid for the piece - $400. And then never invoiced for it. I just couldn’t accept money for this one. Let’s put that on the record too.)

Tim Ballard told the victim he buried a female journalist around April 28 2021. That was two weeks after he received the email from my editor. And about two weeks before the piece was published.  Perhaps he thought he’d stopped the piece. Or perhaps he understood the piece was coming, but knew he’d buried the journalist with the powerful people that mattered.

I am certain I am the journalist Tim Ballard was referring to because of the timeline. I am the only female journalist who’d gone on an OUR operation with Ballard and then went on to write a critical piece. In 2021, I was practically the only person who’d worked with OUR in any capacity and gone on the record with criticism. This was partly due to happenstance. Many people who’ve worked with OUR had to sign incredibly restrictive NDAs. I was never asked to sign one.

How did Tim Ballard bury me? I’d like to know, too. 

Maybe he buried me with the leaders of the LDS Church. Okay, well I don’t attend that church anymore, so I guess that’s fine. And maybe he buried me with influential people in Utah’s government and business sector. All right, well I don’t live in that state. And sure, it’s hard to be flippant about what he might have been able to do to my career, but I am trying not to think about that one way or the other.  

Ultimately, I got to exist outside of Ballard’s sphere of influence. But the victims in the lawsuit were still involved with the LDS Church. They lived in Utah. And they depended on OUR for paychecks. 

Abusers use pre-existing power differentials in shared systems to groom their victims.

The grooming patterns in the lawsuit look like the ones used on me in 2014. 

The details of the allegations against Ballard are harrowing. Ballard was adept at using LDS doctrine and culture to coerce women. The lawsuit makes it clear that LDS influence, including from top LDS leaders, contributed to their vulnerability. The lawsuit is here in its entirety. 

The victims report a pattern of grooming from Ballard and OUR. And I recognize it, because it looks like what happened to me in 2014. 

Ballard was vouched for by a trusted intermediary 

The victims were connected to Ballard through a trusted intermediary. For some of the women, OUR itself functioned in that capacity. I was connected to Ballard through people in the LDS Church. Ballard attended the LDS congregation my parents attended. He’d been my little brother’s Sunday school teacher. I guess that would have been enough to make me trust him at the time. But there was more. 

Abusers use pre-existing power differentials in shared systems to groom their victims. Often, people in those systems are used to help groom victims. I think a lot of the time, those people don’t understand what’s happening.

The trusted intermediary who vouched for Ballard to me was my parents’ bishop. He was Ballard’s bishop too. He was also volunteering with OUR. This bishop blessed my dad as he was dying from leukemia. Hee helped us bury him. Both done with great care.  And then, in the months after my dad’s death, this bishop sat at my parent’s kitchen table and told me all about Ballard’s divine call. 

All these years later, I still don’t think this bishop was a bad man. I do not think he had bad intentions. I think he was apt to believe. And I think he was part of a culture that seeks to convert. And so he felt compelled to proselytize about “saving the children.” And I think I was apt to believe. And I was still a person who was apt to be converted. And so I committed to saving the children. 

Ballard sought out women experiencing emotional vulnerability 

The victims in the lawsuit all appear to have been emotionally vulnerable in one way or another. A couple of them were survivors of abuse themselves. At least one of them had recently gone through a difficult divorce. One woman’s father was dying of a brain tumor. Tim Ballard knew I was in acute grief over the death of my father when he called me in 2014.

OUR created an augmented reality to reinforce Ballard’s authority 

In the lawsuit, it’s apparent that creating an augmented reality where Ballard is a savior and everyone is potentially evil was a big part of Ballard’s manipulation of these women. But it wasn’t just Ballard. That augmented reality has been the main feature of O.U.R. since the very beginning. It was already apparent when I went on an “op” with Ballard in 2014.

I wrote about it in July.

Ballard claimed to be the recipient of divine inspiration on behalf of the women 

LDS women are taught that men in positions of authority can receive divine inspiration for them. According to the suit, Ballard told his victims that they weremeant to be his partner on international anti-human trafficking operations. 

In various instances, he told them he knew they were meant for the work because of spiritual impressions given to him, his psychic or his wife. My role as witness and writer of Ballard’s work was framed as a matter of inspiration too.  

Ballard exploited the fact that LDS women are taught they exist to serve and redeem “worthy” men

Ballard claimed that when he was undercover traffickers would try to get him to have sex with a trafficked adult or child. As his partner, the victims were told they  would “block” for him, so that he didn’t blow his cover by not …. um….having sex with trafficked adults or children. Blocking meant acting like a jealous wife and insisting on having sex with Ballard instead. Then the partner and Ballard would engage in sexual acts with each other, sometimes to the point of everything but penetrative sex. Ballard claimed being “kinky” was key to keeping their cover. Okay. Sure. 

And here, I just have to say, this is how a lot of Mormon and traditionally conservative Christian men see women! As human shields meant to protect them from their own lust and perverse desires. 

And yes, the wife is often held apart as a saint and yes, other women are treated as the archetypal whore. And yes, the “whore” is always at risk of being sacrificed to keep the man pure and the wife saintly! 

And yes, it’s weird to see that common trope taken to such a literal level. But it’s also exactly what I expect from a man like Tim Ballard. And anyone who is shocked by it coming from him hasn’t been paying attention. Or they’ve been looking away on purpose.  

He was helped by OUR stakeholders

The women in the lawsuit all say they expressed shock, shame and fear at every point of their sometimes years-long experiences with Ballard. All of the women note that multiple high-level people at OUR either knew about what was being done to them or were actually there when the abuse was occurring. 

When my piece came out in Slate, it included a statement from OUR,

“A representative for Operation Underground Railroad replied to detailed questions for this article: “Slate is rehashing old claims from nearly seven years ago during Operation Underground Railroad’s first year in operation. As any other successful organization does, we have evolved and are continuously working to professionally improve our standard operating methods and practices.”

This statement was often referenced by the people harassing me because of my criticism of Ballard and the organization.

Victim statements show that Ballard’s abuse was occurring, and was known to others at OUR, at the very same time OUR issued that statement to Slate. Evidence released from the now-closed state investigation into O.U.R. has a fascinating interview with someone who worked as a development director with OUR until 2019. 

“Everyone internally knows that they don’t rescue anyone anymore,” read an investigator’s notes from an interview with a former development director, in which he paraphrases her words, “but the public thinks that OUR is actively rescuing children. ‘And that’s just not true.’” Vice

OUR treated the victims’s claims  in private very much the way they treated my claims in public. With references to Ballard’s authority and denials in carefully worded legalese. (OUR even released a video of Ballard refuting my article’s claims by repeating the same lies he’d told me in 2014.)

The women were made to feel ignorant when they expressed their misgivings. Ballard and his team regularly referenced his time in the CIA and Homeland Security as a way to reinforce his authority. If the women couldn’t handle  the things he asked them to do with that authority,  they should just say so. And, by the way, saying you couldn’t handle it was like saying you didn’t care about saving children.

One victim said she was cornered by a top executives at an OUR gala. They asked her to tell her if Ballard was trying to get her to go to strip clubs to “test” her ability to be his operator partner. The executives expressed that such “testing” was not appropriate. They wanted to know if she’d been involved. 

The woman felt incredibly unsafe. She’d been told these executives didn’t even know she was training to be Ballard’s partner. Was this another test? Was she in danger? Should she talk to them? What would happen if she did?

She was living in the reality Ballard and OUR created. She didn’t know it was all some kind of exaggerated LARP. I know what you are thinking! If executives knew about the strip club tests, why were they at a gala feating Ballard? 


This is the protect the sexual abuser playbook, right? 

They weren’t trying to help that woman. They were simply tracking their liabilities. This is exactly the thing we’ve seen from the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts of America over and over again when it comes to child sexual abuse. Those institutions kept track of what perpetrators were doing, but they seemed to do little to protect children from the perpetrators. 

And what do you know, I just wrote about this last week,  Altar Bound: Men who hide behind pulpits and priesthood

Ballard used his connections to the LDS Church’s for-profit businesses to coerce women

One of the victims allege that as she tried to distance herself from sexual situations with Ballard, he began talking about her writing a book. Ballard himself had published two books through Deseret Book, the LDS Church’s publishing company. He had connections, the kind that could make or break a Mormon woman. And she knew it. That’s a kind of coercion too. 

When I returned from the operation I went on with Ballard in 2014, I got a text from him before I’d even left the airpot. He said he wanted to write a blurb for my first book. He knew I wanted to be a writer. He knew there were few paths for a Mormon woman with no degree and no network to become a writer. 

What would have happened to me if I’d started texting him back? In earnest? I don’t know. 

I do know these similarities function as evidence that he was already grooming women in 2014 the way victims say he groomed them in 2021, 2022 and 2023. I wasn’t smarter than the women he sexually coerced. I am just lucky. 

How the victims could have been protected

Most of the allegations in the first lawsuit happened from 2020 - 2022. I believe there are victims before and after those dates. A second lawsuit was filed later in the week, those allegations occur in 2023. 

A man who will bring a woman into a room full of guns for his own glory is a man who will sexually abuse a woman for his own satisfaction. 

I had been speaking out about my problems with OUR for years. In 2019, I published critiques of OUR by myself and others on the little blog I had at the time. I started pitching my story in 2020. It was published in 2021.

That story should have been enough. A man who will bring a woman into a room full of guns for his own glory is a man who will sexually abuse a woman for his own satisfaction. A man who will use the trauma of children for his own glory is a man who will use the existence of hurting  children as a human shield, as he did in his latest statement. An organization that will protect a man who does those things is rotten.

But my story was not enough. It wasn’t followed by an investigative pieces from local papers. Many women within the organization and the LDS religious tradition were loathe to take me seriously. I had no authority and I was challenging a man who’d actually taught apostles of God. The men in those same spaces, at least the ones with the power to help, just….didn’t. 

I knew my story was the least of the stories that needed to be told. People who’d been hurt by Tim Ballard and OUR had been coming to me with allegations since early 2020. Their claims lined up with what we know now through reporting. And then some. 

I knew I did not have the resources required to protect those survivors. In America, one of the most important resources is money. The money to pay for legal advice, the money to pay for the right representation, the money to pay for mental health services, the money to be taken seriously by those in power. I’d learned my lesson from my time with OUR. I knew I could not be a savior. I needed help.

So I sent tips to the FBI. I connected reporters to resources and sources. (Always with permission from the sources.) And their editors just…didn’t see the story. Or thought the story required too many resources or or or…I don’t know. But it just never got covered. And more and more of my sources went quiet as they were either pulled into ongoing investigations or were intimidated or simply could not bear to talk about it for one more forking minute.

the people who decide who gets the protection of capital, were not interested.

At several points I even tried to figure out how to get the story told through some sort of film! Because then the truth could get out in a way where actual resources could be dedicated to protecting the people coming forward. And it was all…just…passed over. 

All along the way, screenwriters, journalists, advocates, researchers were interested! But the people who decide who got the funding, the people who decide who gets the protection of capital, were not interested.

Of course, there have been other people doing the work along the way. Lynn Packerhas been incredibly attentive. And Anna Merlan and Tim Marchman at Vice have done excellent reporting on OUR. But this story needed a lot of coverage, especially by the people and papers with power in Utah and other LDS-influenced spaces. And until the last month or so…it just didn’t get it. 

When Vice broke the story about Tim Ballard being ousted from OUR, a lot of people were shocked by the details. His psychic. His sexual misconduct. His belief that he was personally chosen by God. His certainty that he was going to be Prophet of the LDS Church and President of the United States. The fraud allegations. The Mormon Nationalism. The allegation that even O.U.R. executives admitted to employees they didn’t really rescue kids.

But I was not shocked. And neither were the people who'd been trying to get their bosses to put resources behind the story I’d sent them years ago. Many of them have reached out over the past couple weeks. To tell me they're sorry they couldn’t get the story told sooner. Every single one has said some version of, “Every detail that’s being reported, you gave me years ago. I just couldn’t get anyone to take it seriously.”

Now of course the people who allocate funds are interested. And I guess this is the part where I need to splash cold water on my face again. 

Because this is just the result a power shift. 

Power hasn’t shifted towards me or towards survivors. It’s simply shifted away from Tim Ballard. 

The state investigation into Ballard and OUR went on for two and a half years. It seems impossible that I knew details of the investigation by 2020 and the powerful people and institutions propping up Ballard did not.  

I was paying attention from my kitchen table in Colorado, for free, with incredibly limited resources. Collectively those OUR stakeholders have dozens, if not hundreds, of people they pay to pay attention to possible liabilities. 

Those stakeholders included Utah State Attorney General Sean Reyes, people in the Trump orbit, at least one apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Church-owned Deseret Book, top business leaders in Utah. 

I mean…taken together, along with everyone in OUR who knew enough to know there was a problem, that’s that’s what….over a thousand people… at least? With pretty damn good knowledge of the situation…. who just did….nothing! About a serial predator in their midst who promised he was ushering in the coming of Mormon-flavored Christian Nationalism. 

It’s almost like there’s a very big story there! That I’ve been begging people with the ability to protect survivors to assign! To me or just like literally anyone else.

The state investigation was closed in May, with oddly stated reasons. That’s right before Ballard was ousted from OUR. He was given a graceful exit - he claimed he left to promote Sound of Freedom and start a new project. 

It certainly must be a coincidence that OUR pushed Ballard out within basically moments of the evidence from the state investigation becoming accessible to journalists. 

And it’s certainly not odd that the LDS Church decided to (allegedly) excommunicate Ballard once it was apparent his abuse would become known through more than whispers. 

And the Utah Attorney General rescinding his hinted-at endorsement of Ballard for Senate certainly has nothing to do with the bad things that have always been happening finally getting coverage. 

And absolutely, the people who can fund that coverage aren’t suddenly into funding it because of those seismic power shifts! 

And definitely, all of this doesn’t make it almost harder for survivors to come forward, by reinforcing that they’ll only be taken seriously if they make allegations against the once powerful.

I am not convinced that Ballard had to bury me. 

 guess I’ve got to give Ballard credit. At least he cited my work, which is more than I’ve gotten from most journalists covering the story now. (OHHHHHh! That was another joke!) 

The stories coming out about Ballard are versions of the same stories I tried to get told for years. Two things have changed. 

  • The power dynamic has shifted. Ballard has been steadily losing ground with powerful people. 
  • The people publicly telling the story are no longer exclusively survivors or, you know…me. 

And I don’t know, but I just keep thinking….did Tim Ballard even need to bury me? 

I am a caretaker in America, with no degree, no professional network, no credentials of any kind. I have no authority, anywhere. Did the LDS Church, the people in state government, the reps over at WME even need to have my article explained away by Tim Ballard? Maybe everyone but me knew no one in power was ever going to care about what I said. 

How embarrassing for them! But also, what a continued mortification for me. 

After my Slate piece was published, I kept speaking and writing about Ballard and OUR. Over the years, that work has been rewarded with online harassment. So much online harassment. 

But every time someone threatened me with “corrective rape” or accused me of being a deep state pedophile, I thought…it’s okay. Because you’re trying to get people in power to care about this. That way victims can be afforded the protection they need to come forward. But like…it was never going to work, was it? 

And in the meantime, you know who also didn’t have any of that protection? Me! 

I mean, at one point I had to stop trying to report on OUR because I could not sleep. The things I was learning were horrifying. I knew learning them put me in danger. I started getting weird anonymous emails. I worried I was putting my kids in danger. 

I still look out my window, checking for cars I don’t recognize. After this piece goes out, I’ll probably look more often than usual, until the usual barrage of threats slows to a trickle again. 

Will I ever get to stop looking?

I keep thinking about something my husband Riley said when he saw all of this getting mainstream coverage. 

I was in the middle of launching the new version of this space. It was changing from homeculture to pocket observatory. I’d just finished writing out the concept, which is basically, “Hey. My writing is a valuable kind of observation. This is my observatory.” 

Riley was reading over the copy for the launch when he looked up at me and said, 

You know, with all this Ballard stuff finally coming out, it just makes me think about you and your observations. That’s one of the stories you need to tell. What happens when resources can’t be accessed by people who are not considered valued observers in our society. You need to write a story about the observers our society values and the observers it devalues.

And I guess someday, I do need to write that story. In depth. And certainly, there are plenty of observers who experience far more cultural devaluation than someone like me. That’s part of the story too. And it’s one reason I felt compelled to keep trying to get the truth about OUR out in the first place. I knew as a white woman, I had a better chance of being heard.

But right now, I just keep thinking about every detail in that lawsuit. All the times those women were hurt from the moment I first pitched article until they came forward. Every single violation. That’s what happens when we devalue those without authority. People get hurt. Over and over and over again. 

I guess here, I’ll share the final words of the first victim statement. She didn’t come forward until now because, 

she couldn't trust anyone and felt so small compared to Ballard as he had told her he would deny everything if she said anything and she would be buried.